VANCOUVER, BC – The NHL’s Vancouver Canucks played here Monday night against a team getting a lot of buzz for their off-the-ice issues.
“We would love to see them in Seattle,” Donna Heald of Mukilteo said as she looked out at the Phoenix Coyotes taking the ice. “We just need a good arena for them to play in.”
Heald and her husband Jeffrey go to about 10 Canucks games a year and say the prospect of the team playing in Seattle next season is intriguing.
“I would love it, and I know Vancouver would love it,” said Jeffrey.
Since news broke in December about a land sale in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood to Valiant Partners of San Francisco, reports have swirled about managing partner Chris Hansen and his intention to bring an NBA or NHL team to that spot.
The Healds have followed the details closely as have people in NHL circles, like Phoenix Coyotes General Manager and Vice President Don Maloney.
Maloney said he’s trying to maintain business as usual.
“It’s pretty much the way it has been for the last three years, hoping our ownership group is resolved,” Maloney said.
The franchise has struggled at the gate this season, averaging 11,600 fans per game at Jobing.com arena in suburban Glendale, Ariz. The team has survived bankruptcy and is currently owned by the NHL. Commissioner Gary Bettman suggested recently the team has three prospective owners who wish to keep the team in Arizona. But he also acknowledged the league’s interest in Seattle.
“We’re almost numb to it, it’s been going on for so long,” said Maloney. “They’ve given me a budget to work with. I know it looks like on the outside that not a lot is happening, but they are working behind the scenes to get something done in Phoenix.”
The Canucks home, Rogers Arena, opened a month before KeyArena and is likely a model for groups in Seattle or Bellevue. It was built for $160 million (Canadian) in private money and hosted NHL and NBA teams. It allowed then owners, Orca Bay Sports and Entertainment, to double their ticket, concession and parking revenue.
The NBA’s Grizzlies, however, moved to Memphis in time for the 2001-2002 season and the arena has since filled those dates with Olympics events, a series of concerts and other acts. The arena can seat roughly 19,000 for hockey and includes two levels of suites and more expensive club sections.
Maloney says he’s not paying attention to reports elsewhere. But he admits, when questioned, time is running short to come up with a solution and keep the team in Glendale next year.
“I’m certainly hopeful. If you asked me that a year ago, I would have said absolutely (they’ll stay in town),” Maloney said.
Donna Heald, who also owns a winter home in Phoenix, says she’d be sad for the team to leave the desert. But she’d also buy tickets in Seattle.
“I hope it would work. I think it would work.”